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Indonesia: Closer To The Edge

Address by Hon Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group and former Foreign Minister of Australia, to U.S.-Indonesia Society, Washington D.C., 13 December 2000

I have been a congenital optimist about Indonesia for as long as I can remember - but perhaps longer now than I should have been. Recent developments have made me and many others much more concerned than we have been for a long time about whether the country is in fact embarked on a course that will ensure peace and stability, or whether rather it is sliding close to the point at which those objectives are dangerously at risk.

It has not been difficult over the years to articulate the grounds for optimism:

- the richness of the country's natural resource base;

- the depth of talent and sophistication evident at senior levels (if not always the highest) throughout both the public sector and civil society;

- the capacity to keep an unbelievably diverse country on a basically united course (and not just by the kind of thuggery perpetrated by the military in East Timor, Irian Jaya and some other places);

- the essentially well-deserved reputation of the country for sound macro-economic management (whatever the micro or structural problems revealed by the 1997 crash);

- and the generally constructive role played by Indonesia in regional and international relations (e.g. in the Cambodia peace settlement, and the establishment of APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum).

All this gave me and a lot of others confidence that the country would manage the transition to democracy - including the full subordination of the military to civilian rule -in a way that, while bumpy, would avoid a plunge into widespread violent conflict. ICG basically shared that optimism in our first detailed report, published at the end of May under the title "Indonesia's Crisis: Chronic but not Acute". While we identified a number of serious concerns, our basic sense was that the democratic transition was consolidating, that the internal balance of forces was favourable to that happening, and that the best stance for the international community in response to all of this was one of quiet support and encouragement for the positive developments - and care not to over-react to the negative ones.

But events over the last few months have raised real doubts about whether the present balance of forces is still broadly favourable to peace and stability. There are many reasons for anxiety - shared by many highly placed Indonesians - about how things are heading in each of the five main areas in which ICG is conducting research and analysis, and on which I will comment in turn, namely:

- Politics and Governance

- Military and Police Reform

- Justice System Reform

- Separatist Conflict, and

- Communal Conflict

I won't on this occasion dwell on the state of the Indonesian economy, about which there is also continuing widespread anxiety, except to say this. While there are signs of revived economic growth - perhaps as high as 4 per cent this year - albeit from a very low base, some of it flowing from improved domestic investment as well as domestic consumption and exports, there are no signs at all of new external investment. And the reason for that is almost universally attributed to the factors on which I want to concentrate today:

- uncertainty in the government

- failure to deal with cases of massive corruption

- lack of faith in the legal system, and

- concern about overall peace and stability, and the continued viability of the country, in the context in particular of the situations in Aceh, Irian Jaya and Maluku.

Indonesia’s public debt has more than doubled since the country’s economic crisis began in 1997, largely because of the costs of bailing out local banks. This debt is absorbing a major portion of state revenue which is badly needed for other purposes. But attempts to reduce this debt, and to make the necessary reforms to stop another crisis in the future, are again being undermined by political uncertainty, a weak legal system and the prevalence of patronage and corruption. The key to Indonesia's economic future, as everywhere else, is getting the country's governance into shape.

Politics and Governance

The initial euphoria over the first democratic election of a president is now well and truly past.

- The president has been coming under increasingly damaging criticism since about April this year.

The initial cabinet appointed in October last year was forced on President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) by the balance of political forces that had supported him in the presidential election.

- His own party has only about 11 per cent of the seats in the parliament (DPR).

- The cabinet included all five of the main parties and several small ones as well.

The lack of unity of purpose in the government was a major target of criticism.

- This was in addition to Gus Dur's own penchant for making what are politely called 'controversial' statements, because they contradicted major planks of policy, displayed disconcerting naïveté, or made grave allegations about personal behaviour of others with no evident foundation.

Nevertheless, Gus Dur's supporters still see him a 'national', unifying figure who can provide a symbol of an Indonesia in which the country’s diverse ethnic and religious groups can feel a sense of belonging.

Demands for Gus Dur to resign grew louder in the weeks before the August session of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR)

- but in the end Gus Dur emerged more or less unscathed. (While hard evidence has been lacking, credible rumours abound that there was a great deal of vote-buying and other pressures applied to previously vocal legislators who suddenly toned down their attacks on the president).

Gus Dur was forced during the session to promise to hand over day-to-day control of the government to Vice President Megawati.

- This successfully won over the PDI-P, which is the biggest party in the MPR and whose support would be essential for the impeachment of the president.

However, in typical Gus-Dur style, the new cabinet clearly consisted of his people, not Megawati's.

- He didn't even appoint any leading PDI-P people to the cabinet,

: and he excluded Golkar altogether.

- Thus the two largest parties, which together hold a majority of seats, are not effectively represented in the cabinet although it is now nominally led by Megawati.

- As usual, Gus Dur loves to live dangerously - with unbounded self-confidence.

The most important appointments were of the two co-ordinating ministers:

- Rizal Ramli, a professional economist with little direct political experience but previously a well-known commentator on economic affairs; and

- General (recently promoted before retirement) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in charge of political and security affairs.

Although Megawati chairs the cabinet meetings, the two coordinating ministers in fact control the agenda.

- Observers say that under this arrangement the government’s ability to define and meet policy targets has somewhat improved.

But this has not been enough, nor does it seem likely to be, to restore faith in Gus Dur's leadership.

One of the biggest question marks surrounding Gus Dur relates to money.

Gus Dur's political base does not lie in the moneyed interests that were so prominent in Soeharto’s presidency, but in the traditionalist Muslim organisation, the Nahdatul Ulama, with its network of religious schools and institutions, especially in East Java but also in many other parts of the country.

Gus Dur's way of thinking on money and politics can be characterised essentially like this:

- there are a lot of corrupt businessmen who have made lots of money, and

- there are millions of poor kids in rural Java and elsewhere who depend on the NU for their education - and indeed whole communities of desperately poor people who need help.

If Gus Dur can persuade the rich businessmen to contribute to the NU

- the poor kids go to school, and

- Gus Dur's political base in strengthened.

On top of this, with a party that only has 11 per cent of the seats, he needs resources to win over other parties in the MPR, especially when he is under threat of impeachment.

So, Gus Dur is always ready to do a deal with corrupt businessmen who are facing court proceedings.

The IMF and the press have been outraged in particular by the concessions that he has given to three heavily indebted businessmen (most prominently the head of the Texmaco group) who are representative of the corruption that has virtually bankrupted the Bank Indonesia.

- He claims that the three can make a big contribution to export performance in the future, but most people assume that the big contribution went to Gus Dur and the NU.

In another bizarre case, his masseur obtained a large sum from the state rice trading agency (Bulog) and then disappeared, although he has now been arrested.

- It seems that Gus Dur had already approached the agency for funds to use to soften up Islamic resistance in Aceh. There is no hard evidence about the President's involvement, but no complete explanation has been offered either.

Similarly Gus Dur obtained several million dollars from the Sultan of Brunei also for distribution in Aceh.

The DPR is now investigating what are called 'Bulog-gate' and 'Brunei-gate'.

The latest issue to cloud Gus Dur’s presidency is his meeting with Tommy Soeharto, after he had rejected Tommy's plea for clemency with the result that Tommy was about to be the first of the Soehartos to go to prison.

- Why wasn’t Tommy sent to prison immediately after the rejection of his petition?

- And what was discussed with Gus Dur a few days later? Gus Dur has been trying for some time to do a deal with the Soeharto family in which prosecution would be dropped in exchange for the return of ill-gotten wealth.

And now Tommy is on the run, having simply driven out of his house past all the police and Attorney-General's department officials who were there to arrest him.

Even Gus Dur's friends are now questioning his capacity to be president - and some are bluntly calling on him to step down.

The problem with stepping down is that the constitution provides for his automatic replacement by the Vice President, Megawati.

- So far Megawati has made no impact on the administration - even after taking over what is now obviously only nominal control of the 'day-to-day' work of the government.

There are many well-founded concerns about what a Megawati presidency might mean.

- Her husband is seen as a potential Mr Bhutto.

- Her party is a pure patronage machine without the social-welfare dimension of Gus Dur's NU.

- She, and her closest supporters, tend to be simple-minded nationalists who want to crush the traitors in Aceh and Papua and still believe that Indonesia was cheated of East Timor.

- She would be easily persuaded to bring the military back into a more prominent role in the government.

Why doesn't Megawati herself take the initiative to bring down the government?

- At present, the balance of forces in the MPR is such that Gus Dur could not survive if Megawati did what Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is doing in the Philippines.

- Moreover, many in her party are impatiently pushing her in that direction, angered by their virtual exclusion from the cabinet and anxious to get the positions that would fall to them in a PDI-P government.

There is some calculation in her stance (whether her calculation or that of her close advisors is not so clear).

• The precedent problem:

- If she joined the Amien Rais-led alliance to bring down Gus Dur, what would stop them bringing her down six months later?

- The peculiarities of the Indonesian constitutional process which requires a series of steps (much more complicated than in the Philippines) before a president can be impeached (presumably on the ground of "serious violation" of the "General Outlines of State Policy" adopted by the MPR).

- It is hard to see the process taking less than about 5 months.

• What might happen in such an uncertain atmosphere?

- The collapse of the Philippine peso provides one warning. Where would the rupiah go if Indonesia were to face five months of impeachment proceedings and danger of physical clashes between supporters and opponents of Gus Dur.

Probably Megawati is just hoping that Gus Dur will come to his senses and resign

- but he certainly has given no indication of this.

Others, however, are saying that the nation cannot afford another four years of Gus Dur

- with his total lack of interest in the economy, and disposition to take courses which undermine its restoration

- with his apparent inability to seriously and systematically the problems in Aceh, Papua/Irian Jaya, and Maluku, which if anything now seem to be getting worse (with even what to call the easternmost province unresolved: Gus Dur said last December that it would be changed to Papua, but nothing has happened since, and Irian Jaya remains the province's official name)

- with huge challenges to be faced in the decentralisation program which is due to be implemented on 1 January 2001 and

- with the subordination of the military and police to effective civilian control, a crucial cornerstone of the transition to democracy, far from effectively consolidated.

Military and Police Reform1

The military has lost much of the political influence that it wielded under Soeharto

- but it is still a significant political force

- particularly at the regional level where the territorial structure is still in place.

At the level of national politics, it still has some influence over the levers of power.

- Until 2004 it will retain its 38 (out of 500) members of the national parliament.

- Until 2009 ('at the latest', as they say) they will keep an as yet undetermined number in the MPR.

Although these numbers do not enable them to determine the outcome of day-to-day political issues, they could be vital in a closely fought attempt to impeach the president or to elect a new president in 2004.

- Megawati in particular seems to be wooing the military.

There are signs that military officers are sharing the growing dissatisfaction with Gus Dur

- but there is no thought of a coup or other drastic measures at this stage.

Earlier in the year there was much dissatisfaction among the generals with Gus Dur's tendency to interfere in military appointments (e.g. the appointment of Agus Wirahadikusumah as Commander of Kostrad), although the recent reshuffle of the military leadership seemed to be based largely on professional considerations.

What is significant is that the reform movement in the military seems to be running out of steam.

- The sacking of Agus Wirahadikusumah after he revealed a financial scandal in Kostrad indicates the way the tide has turned.

- Reformers and hard-liners alike all resented Agus’ habit of 'washing dirty linen in public'.

The reform of the territorial system is still being discussed - but the time frame extends to 7-10 years.

Military reliance on extra-budgetary funding continues.

- At present the defence budget only covers about 25 per cent of expenditures.

In these circumstances, there is a general tolerance shown to soldiers who raise their own incomes in one way or another outside 'office hours'.

The harm this does to military professionalism is obvious when they go into the field - as in Maluku and Aceh (e.g. selling ammunition and weapons to combatants, protection rackets etc.)

Much the same considerations apply to the police.

- Policemen, whose wages keep them for a week in each month, have no choice but to raise their own living expenses.

- The result is that they are incapable of carrying out their law and order functions.

- As one policeman said, “We can't hold criminals for more than a few days because we don't have enough money to feed them”.

- In reaction to the early release of thieves etc from police custody, it is now common for people to simply kill thieves on the spot - about 150 so far this year in Jakarta.

- The police hardly ever take action against those who killed thieves or suspected thieves.

The condition of the police at present is now in the national spotlight as the farce involving Tommy Soeharto continues.

Justice System Reform

The lack of confidence in the police is just one aspect of a larger problem which is at the heart of the growing anxiety about social disorder in Indonesia - i.e. the ubiquitous lack of confidence in the rule of law itself. All the main instruments for the application of the law - the judiciary, the attorney general's office and the police - have been routinely subjected to political pressures and are infested with corruption at all levels.

It was widely hoped that the Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, the widely respected and reform minded Golkar politician who served previously as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, would be somehow able to cut through all this, but those hopes have not so far borne much fruit.

Take for example the progress of measures to make military offices accountable for human rights abuses, critical for the government's credibility both at home and internationally.

The demand that those responsible for gross violations of human rights in the past be made accountable for their crimes continues to be debated.

But since the fall of Soeharto, only a tiny number of cases have been brought to court, relating to

- the Trisakti shooting of students in May 1998

- the Kopassus abduction of dissidents in the last months of the Soeharto government, and

- two cases in Aceh.

In each cases those charged were low-level personnel while senior officers enjoy what is called the 'culture of impunity'.

Numerous investigations of such cases have been held by various commissions of enquiry over

- East Timor

- Tanjung Priok

- Aceh, and

- the attack on the PDI headquarters in 1996.

Although senior military officers have been identified as 'suspects', no one has yet been brought to court.

Marzuki Darusman says the first of the East Timor trials will be held in January but his promise has been greeted with scepticism.

Why the slow pace?

i.) There seems to be a reluctance to antagonise the military over this issue, which has tended to close ranks around the arguments that

- past behaviour should not be judged by today's standards!

- and Indonesia needs to get past the days when the military is blamed for everything.

ii.) The fragmentation of political power in the DPR and MPR means that the president is under constant threat of impeachment.

- He can't afford to alienate potential supporters.

- His rivals can't afford to lose potential supporters.

iii.) The political interests pressing for trials are also divided. e.g. Radical Muslim groups demand that those responsible for Tanjung Priok (i.e. the Christian Benny Moerdani) be tried but they are not particularly interested in East Timor.

- PDI-P supporters who are still angry about the military attack on Megawati's headquarters in 1996 regard the East Timorese militia as national heroes who fought to defend Indonesian territory in East Timor.

iv.) Technical legal difficulties

- The criminal code can be used to net perpetrators in the field but it is difficult to get evidence to implicate the 'masterminds' higher in the military hierarchy.

- A new Act creates the concept of 'crimes of omission' which would apply to superior officers who might have been 'masterminds' of serious crimes but who cannot be charged for lack of direct evidence of their complicity.

- Although the new Act includes a retroactive clause, a recent constitutional amendment enshrines freedom from retroactive prosecution as a fundamental human right.

: Some claim that the constitution still offers a way around this but the argument is by no means convincing.

- In any case, application of the retroactive provision in the new Act requires a resolution of the DPR and a Presidential Decision identifying the case to which it will be applied.

: There is much scepticism about whether such a resolution would be adopted.

It is hard not to believe that ultimately the reaction of the international community in the case of the East Timor violations will have to be taken into account by Indonesia

- but the government seems to be in no hurry to start the process leading to trials.

The new Act also provides for the establishment by separate legislation of a Truth and Justice Commission.2

- However, this separate legislation has yet to be brought before the DPR: the draft has been subject to endless discussion, and it is not being treated as a top priority issue.

There is a growing realisation that a single Truth and Justice Commission would be unable to cope with the huge range of violations in the past and indeed in the present.

- Different formats will be needed for different cases (e.g. Maluku, Aceh, communists in the 1960s).

Initially it seemed that the South African commission would be Indonesia's model but now the discussion is emphasising the difference between South Africa's condition and Indonesia's.

While nobody doubts the degree of difficulty involved in balancing the demand and need for both justice and reconciliation, the danger is that if the present impasse continues Indonesia will end up with neither.

Separatist Conflict

The good news here is that although there is much talk of the disintegration of Indonesia, in fact only two provinces really seem to have much potential to separate themselves - short of a complete collapse of the Indonesian state.

The less good news is that in those two provinces - Aceh and Irian Jaya - the prospect of the peaceful negotiation of realistic major autonomy packages is looking less rather than more bright as time goes on.

Aceh and Irian Jaya (with a population of around 6½ million between them) have several features in common.

- Both are resource rich (petroleum, mining) and could conceivably benefit economically from independence.

- Both have distinctive histories that encourage separatist inclination.

- Aceh was never occupied by the Japanese and never re-conquered by the Dutch during the Indonesian revolution.

- The Dutch retained control of Irian Jaya until the 1960s.

- Armed separatist movements have been present on and off in both provinces since the 1950s in Aceh and the 1960s in Irian Jaya.

- The presence of armed separatist movements attracted an Indonesian military presence which, by their usual brutal methods, succeeded in alienating much more of the community.

- Natural resources have attracted external economic interests who have siphoned off this wealth to Jakarta while leaving the local populations with few benefits.

- Cultural distinctiveness - in Aceh based on Islam and in Papua based on a common sense of being looked down upon as primitive by other Indonesians.

- Both have been sites for the transmigration of Javanese - this has aggravated horizontal conflict.

Gus Dur came to power offering dialogue.

- He talked of a possible referendum in Aceh and

- helped to fund a separatist conference in Papua.

But separatist sympathies have spread rather than diminished and very few these days doubt that if referendums were held, the outcome would be similar to that in East Timor.

- Which is why, given the strength of anti-separatist sentiment in Jakarta, common to both military and civilian circles, it is difficult to believe they will ever be held.

In Aceh (pop. circa 4 million) the armed separatist movement (GAM) agreed in May with the Indonesian government on a "humanitarian pause" to curb fighting, but tension and violence have increased significantly in recent weeks.

The strong popular support for a referendum has raised the stakes, and the government has very recently begun to show more signs of responsiveness to the many grievances of the Acehnese people - with the announcement of a small humanitarian aid package, and Gus Dur's scheduled visit to Aceh this week to witness the formal introduction of sharia law.

But considerable wariness remains in Aceh about the government's willingness and capacity to follow through, not least in bringing the military under control and making it accountable for all the abuses that have occurred. The ball is in Jakarta's court to show the necessary commitment, and it is important that the international community encourage this.

In Irian Jaya (pop. circa 2½ million) the armed separatist movement (OPM) is hardly visible today with the running being made by the Papua Presidium headed by former pro-Indonesia leaders who now want independence.

In contrast to Aceh, which has a relatively integrated society, the people of Papua are spread out in villages that are divided by ethnicity and distance. It is much more difficult to organise a province-wide movement in Papua than in Aceh, but if anything can create one it will be continued heavy-handed action by the military authorities - and there has been little or no sign of that abating.

The best that can be said at present is that both territories may be facing a kind of extended stalemate, in which

- Jakarta cannot win over the separatists,

- but the separatists cannot drive the military out.

But the equilibrium in each case is extremely unstable, and it will be more by good luck than good management from Jakarta if major bloodshed is avoided in the next few months and beyond.

If there were to be secessionist momentum developed in either province, outsiders often talk of the domino effect that would follow the departure of either Aceh or Maluku, but it is very difficult to identify which province would come next.

Certainly in the two other resource-rich provinces - East Kalimantan and Riau - the emphasis is more on getting the best deal with Jakarta, not separatism.

Meanwhile the government is about to implement the regional autonomy laws, beginning in January, the success or failure of which will have a large influence on the future of Indonesia.

- These laws provide for a radical transfer to power not to the provincial level (around 30 provinces) but to the district level (around 350).

- However, there are serious concerns about the capacity of some of the districts to exercise their new powers.

- There is also the fear that corruption will become very widespread.

The technical and political difficulties involved in implementing the new system are immense, and there is not much evidence that either is close to resolution.

Communal Conflict

Indonesia continues to be beset by social conflict along ethnic and religious lines.

Maluku has been continuing to experience effectively civil war, with 5000 people dead and roughly 500,000 more displaced over the last two years.

While over the last year or so

- Poso in Central Sulawesi witnessed a conflict between Muslims and Christians which cost hundreds of lives


- Fighting broke out again in West Kalimantan between indigenous Malays and immigrant Madurese

- Javanese transmigrants were attacked in Irian Jaya, and

- Javanese transmigrants have been driven from parts of Aceh.

It has been recently estimated that there are, overall, about one million internally displaced persons in Indonesia.

The underpinnings of this inter-communal conflict is often more complex than it appears at first sight. The Maluku case is no exception:

The conflict in the two Maluku provinces is between Muslims and Christians but it is not a purely religious war inspired by incompatible religious doctrines.

Numerous factors have contributed to the conflict.

- There has been an influx of Muslims from Sulawesi, primarily into Ambon, during the last few decades.

- This turned the relatively even ethnic balance between Ambonese Muslims and Ambonese Christians in favour of the Muslims as the migrants tend to side with their co-religionists.

- During the 1990s President Soeharto had been playing the Muslim card, which in Maluku meant that previous Christian predominance in the local government was being replaced by Muslim predominance.

- Democratisation played a role in sharpening political rivalries between religious communities. It is probably not an accident that the rioting started as Indonesia approached its first free election in more than four decades.

- Initially there was a strong ethnic element in the rioting - Christian Ambonese resenting the growing commercial success of immigrant Bugis and other ethnic groups from Sulawesi (although later the ethnic factor has been submerged by religious identification).

- The conflict has been aggravated by the performance of the security forces, both in their failure to protect and in the participation of their members in the violence on one side or the other.

- In what in retrospect seems to be incredible mismanagement, the first outside troops called in to Maluku were those who were nearest - i.e. from South Sulawesi, the very region of the Bugis ethnic group which was involved in the initial fighting in Ambon. It seems that some of the reserves sided with their ethnic brothers.

- Local Ambonese troops are, in the nature of things, either Muslim or Christian. As civilian casualties rose, these troops increasingly sided with their own communities.

- Ideally, Indonesia should have replaced the local troops with forces from other regions not connected to the local indigenous groups - whether Ambonese or Bugis. But it so happened that the conflict in Maluku came at a time when Indonesia was changing its policy in East Timor. Concentrating on East Timor, the military had few reserves to be sent to Maluku.

- The Indonesian military is notoriously underpaid and under-supplied. The commanders of incoming troops had to quickly reach arrangements with local businesses in order to feed their troops. This unquestionably interfered with their professionalism in carrying out their responsibilities. Before long soldiers were selling ammunition and weapons to combatants.

- Lacking sufficient barracks, troops had to be billeted with the local population. In the circumstances Christian troops were billeted in Christian villages and Muslim troops in Muslim villages. As a result, when village A attacked village B, soldiers naturally fought alongside their hosts.

- Rivalries between the military and police came to the surface. It is said that the police in Ambon were inclined to the Christian side while the army was more inclined to the Muslim side. No less likely is the explanation that, as in other parts of Indonesia, the police and army raise funds from protection rackets and therefore from time to time find themselves engaged in turf wars. Fighting broke out between army and police units, culminating in the destruction of police barracks in Ambon.

- In North Maluku the pattern was different and basically involved ethnic groups that happened to be either Christian or Muslim. The struggle was essentially over land, economic resources and political power - again exacerbated by the forthcoming election.

As the conflict grew it attracted increasing national attention. Particularly after a Christian massacre of some 500 Muslims (in what was essentially a territorial dispute over resources) in North Sulawesi at the end of December 1999, a group of radical Muslims in Java mobilised forces for a Jihad in defence of Islam in Maluku. This group also aimed to embarrass Gus Dur for not doing enough to defend Islam. Thus the Laskar Jihad force of about 2000 was sent to Maluku.

- Why neither the police nor the military prevented them is still a mystery. A common explanation is that elements in the military supported them, not because of ideological sympathy, but as part of a general strategy to destabilise the Gus Dur government.

After the imposition of emergency rule in June, there was a decline in conflict but the fundamental divisions between the communities have not been addressed. At the end of November and in early December around 100 people were killed in renewed fighting, with Ambon recently returning to a state of near warfare after a five-month lull

- There is particular concern about further major imminent violence with both Christmas and Lebaran (the celebration at the end of Ramadan) happening to almost coincide this year.

Although the two Maluku provinces affected by all of this are only a tiny piece of the sprawling Indonesian state – and hold just 1 per cent of Indonesia’s 200-million people – the problem cannot be fenced off or ignored. The impunity for killing, destruction and forced displacement, involving as it does members of the military, as well as civilian militias, sends a signal to other provinces that such behaviour is tolerated.

The government needs to do two things to stop the violence in Maluku region.

- First, it needs to remove the Java-based Laskar Jihad, which turned intermittent.

- Fighting between the two communities into a campaign of 'religious cleansing,' and arrest its leaders.

- Then, it needs to provide the pre-conditions for reconciliation between the Moslem and Christian communities.

So far little progress has been made towards either of these goals.

What can the international community do in this situation in relation to Maluku?

On the 'do no harm' principle, one useful contribution would be to be conscious of the complex dynamics of this conflict, recognise that both Christians and Muslims have experienced extreme suffering, and to be sensitive to local conditions when making statements.

Foreign military involvement in Maluku has been rejected by Indonesia, and is not realistically in anyone's contemplation.

But international humanitarian aide has been crucial to easing the pain of Maluku’s crisis and should be continued.

- The international community should also be ready to assist Indonesia with funds and investigative resources in order to re-establish the rule of law.

As investigations and disarmament begin, the presence of foreign observers, if Indonesia were prepared to accept them, could help to provide confidence in the military and police neutrality. Such observers should come from regional countries including members of ASEAN.

As long as the Indonesian military and police cannot prevent their weapons falling into the hands of militias determined to use such weapons against other parts of the

Indonesian community, it is reasonable for foreign governments to impose embargoes on the supply of such weapons to Indonesia.

International Policy Options

The limited array of options available to the international community in the case of Maluku is symptomatic of the larger problem in dealing with the whole country.

Indonesia - the fourth biggest country in the world in terms of population, and the largest Islamic country - is simply too big to be ignored, and its strategic importance at the heart of South East Asia, and straddling one of the world's most important trade routes, can hardly be denied

- If Indonesia disintegrates the consequences for the region and the wider world will be immense.

But the country's very size and significance sets inherent limits on the kind of role that can be played towards it by the rest of the world.

- The international military operation in East Timor is remembered as a success, but it occurred only because Indonesia eventually agreed to that intervention (under the collective pressure fortuitously able to be applied to it because an APEC Summit was being held at the relevant time: until then it had been difficult to capture Bill Clinton's or anyone else's attention to the issue).

- It is no more likely, in presently foreseeable circumstances, that a non-agreed intervention would be mounted anywhere in Indonesia than it is that the West would go to war with Russia over Chechnya or China over Tibet.

What influence or leverage, then, does anybody have over Indonesia and how should it be exercised? This is the central issue which ICG is wrestling with in all our analytical work on Indonesia, and will be at the heart of the series of reports which we will be producing over the next few months, addressing in close detail all the issues I have been discussing.

At this stage I would make just these points:

(1) What happens in Indonesia is first and foremost the responsibility of the people of that country. This is the essence of the process of democratisation the Indonesians took upon themselves, and it is also the reality that the outside world confronts, given the sheer scale of the country's needs.

(2) There is in Indonesia as elsewhere in Asia a very powerful instinct in the country to oppose foreign pressure and to react sharply against any hint of patronising advice from outside (with the folded arms of the IMF head standing over President Soeharto as the first post-crash support package was signed remaining the most powerful and detested image of that patronage).

The crucial issue is that such advice, however popular with Western domestic audiences, can often be quite counterproductive.

- For example, the very public advice given to the Indonesians by President Clinton at the APEC Summit in 1994 to implement a far-reaching autonomy package for East Timor, which resulted directly and immediately in President Soeharto taking such a package (which I know was very close to realisation) off the table.

(3) The international community has to be more conscious than it has tended to be so far of how the giving or withholding of support plays out in domestic political terms.

- Many of the policy areas where the international support would be most useful, like military reform, remain closely associated with the big battles of domestic politics,

- and so for foreigners to ‘help’ in the key policy areas can be seen in Indonesia as favouring one side of the political contest over another.

- It is said for example that the Americans were backing Agus Wirahadikusumah; at least this was used by his military rivals as one of the reasons to bring him down.

(4) All that said, the IMF and World Bank programs, in their more recent manifestations, have been critical in achieving some of the structural changes that have been necessary to get the economy back on course, and there is absolutely no reason why intelligent conditionality should not continue to be part of these support packages - e.g. in ensuring much more transparency in the restructuring of private business debt now under the control of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA).

(5) There is a strong case for a higher proportion of the development assistance now going to Indonesia being spent on technical support for strategic planning and the development of detailed policy implementation strategies - across just about the whole spectrum of public sector activity.

- Apart from the area of economic management, there is not much the international community can do to determine broad policy directions, which must remain a matter for the Indonesians to sort out themselves (albeit with a good knowledge of available alternatives).

- But at the level of detailed blueprint writing, and operational implementation, where the follow-through has often been lamentably poor, sensitively handled support can be very useful, and should be offered.

- The programs on offer from USAID through the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in the areas of media, civil society, elections, governance and civil-military dialogue seem to be small but useful examples of what could and should be done on a larger scale, and by other governments as well.

(6) A great deal of support can usefully be offered not just to the government directly, but to NGOs working at the grass roots level on conflict prevention and resolution, and on larger policy issues.

- A good example here is the comparative research that OTI has funded on the question of state security legislation, which has helped those NGOs and others seeking to persuade the President not to sign into law the current State Security Bill drafted by the military and passed by the Parliament under the Habibie Presidency. 16

(7) The biggest single policy dilemma for the international community is whether and how to support the reform of the military.

- Throughout the West support in any form for the Indonesian military is currently a no-fly zone as a result of its appalling performance in East Timor and elsewhere.

- But the reality is that achieving a thoroughly professional, properly resourced military that can be confidently sent into situations like that exploding in Maluku without making the situation worse is one of the greatest immediate needs for the whole country, and international support may be an indispensable element in making it happen.

ICG has no instant answers to this dilemma at this stage, but we see as one of our highest priorities in the period ahead finding and recommending ways of supporting military reform without at the same time supporting those able and often all too willing to support the misuse of its coercive powers.

Overall, for all the innumerable problems afflicting Indonesia at the moment, and for all the immense disappointment that we all have in the performance of the Wahid Government in so many respects, there don't seem to be many alternatives to sitting the situation out - and continuing to work as effectively as possible to offer support to positive developments and discouragement to the unhelpful ones.

Working effectively in Indonesia often means (unhappily for some politicians and diplomats, and for a great many NGOs) working as quietly as possible. That's not a very glamorous prescription, but with Indonesia teetering as dangerously close to the edge as it is in so many ways, glamour should be about the last thing on the mind of policy makers.


1. The army has about 230,000 personnel and the police about 200,000. Until April 1999 the police were part of the armed forces. In that month they were separated from ABRI (which changed itself into TNI at that time) but continued to be placed under the Minister for Defence and Security. In June this year the police were placed directly under the President who appoints the national Chief of Police (now with parliamentary approval following a recent constitutional amendment).

The TNI (including the army) is now formally responsible for defence while the police are responsible for internal security. But the police can call in the army for assistance in situations beyond their capacity to cope. There are a lot of grey areas which hopefully will be resolved in a proposed bill on National Defence and Security.

Among the grey areas are:

Existing legislation is a mess - one law gives the police chief the authority to call in the army - another law gives the governor or district head this authority. What if one wants them in and the other doesn't? Who exercises authority over them when they do come in? Who can order them out? What is the authority of the local army commander? Technically, for example, when carrying out internal security operations in Aceh and Irian Jaya, the army is under police command.

There is also emergency legislation (adopted in 1959 and still valid because the new security bill (which, whatever its weaknesses is still far more liberal than the 1959 regulations) was not signed by Habibie and has not been signed by Gus Dur, pending its revision. There are three levels of emergency - civil (under the governor's control), military (under the military commander's control) and state of war.

Another grey area possibly to be resolved in the new legislation is the definition of 'defence' and 'internal security'. Some argue for the 'normal' definitions - defence against external threat, internal security against domestic threat. But others say threats to 'national integrity' are really defence issues, not just internal security. Thus the army should be responsible for dealing with separatist movements.

In any case, the reality is that the police capacity to maintain internal security is still limited and they depend on the military to face big challenges.

A footnote to this is the problem of inadequate resources which forces both the army and the police to 'raise their own funds'. This leads to regular turf wars, sometimes resulting in deaths. The atmosphere is not always conducive to close co-operation.

2. The Human Rights Tribunals Act was adopted in November. Article 47 reads as follows:

"1. Resolution of gross violations of human rights occurring prior to the coming into force of this act may be undertaken by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

2. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission as referred to in clause (1) shall be established by an Act."